‘Ease tourism pressures on New Forest National Park’

August 2, 2013

 Peter Roberts

PARK PRESSURES: New Forest Association president Peter Roberts wants people to visit the New Forest but in sustainable numbers, with which the animals and the working community can cope with.

 

Alex Cox

WATER AID: Alex Cox, along with others across the New Ground are Brockenhurst, were selling bottles of Hildon Spring Water to thirsty visitors and 10p of every purchase went to the New Forest Trust.

 

A CHANGE of management strategy needs to be put urgently put together to address the increasing numbers who visit the New Forest, say those who run it.

The New Forest Association, the New Forest Trust and commoners alike all want tourists to come and visit the area, but are telling the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park that current numbers of visitors are unsustainable.

The commoners are people who occupy property which attaches one or more rights over the forest and/or the adjacent commons areas brought into the Forest under the New Forest Act of 1964. They own or rent land which benefits from common rights.

The commoners come from a diverse range of backgrounds including descendants of those who have been commoning for generations and residents who have moved in from other areas. There are concerns the practice is under threat as younger people wishing to become commoners can’t afford to live there.

The land which benefits from the rights over the Forest extends from just south of Salisbury in the north; to Southampton in the east, the Solent shore in the south and Bournemouth in the west. The rights pre-date William the Conqueror’s afforestation of the area.

The commoners say the browsing and grazing create the open forest lawns and were the ponies not there, it would become overgrown with brambles, gorse and other coarse herbage and a liability for tourism.

According to 2010 figures listed in commoners literature, there were 4,824 ponies registered on the forest; 2, 254 cattle, 119 donkeys, 576 pigs and 153 sheep.

In an exclusive interview with this blog at the New Forest Show, NFA president Peter Roberts, said that action needs to be taken as soon as possible to control the amount of access to the forest, to ensure it doesn’t adversely impact on live of the rural communities working there and the animals.

According the New Forest District Council’s website, there are 13.5 million one-day visits taken annually by tourists (mostly UK based) and a further million involve an overnight stay – totaling 3 million nights.

Tourism creates 7,980 jobs in the forest and generates £400M in revenue for the area.

The forest was originally set aside for the hunting of deer but nowadays it has to deal with the competing demands of timber production, wildlife conservation and recreation.

Mr Roberts said: “We are very concerned about the protection of the forest. We have lots of designations like the SSSIs and the National Park Authority and what they are doing to protect the forest but greater access could actually be damaging it. The forest became a National Park in 2005 and they are the new boys on the scene.

“We need to work with the people who visit and educate them for the benefit of the area. It is hugely important to get the right management and to promote this side of things.

“When you have masses of cyclists or walkers all in one place, it will create disturbance to fauna and flora and is an issue for the people who work in the Forest as they get disturbed too.

“This actually causes damage to the forest and we need to get the right sort of numbers as we are the smallest national park in the country.

“Access is very good from London and many use the forest as a meeting place. We need to talk and organise a network so it does work. It is necessary to do these things.”

Writing in the NFA’s summer newsletter, editor Graham Long, adds: “Governance of the New Forest is critical but perhaps even more so is the attitude of the millions who visit, and the tens of thousands who live here.

“Those who us who do, could well improve our act by heeding the message on the back of the bus. Ponies don’t dent, they die. If we don’t, one day we will not have a Forest to dent.”

 

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